This final installment of Helen Lee Worthing: A Tragedy In Glorious Black And White is the conclusion of the story, Hollywood's Most Tragic Marriage, as it originally appeared in the February 1952 issue of Ebony Magazine (five years after Miss Worthing's suicide). Up until this point, transcribing the story from microfilm hasn't been a problem, but the remaining pages of the original text were copied so haphazardly that the finished product is often unreadable. There may be a few missing words, but these minor omissions do not detract from the story as it is concluded.
Somehow the years passed. Eugene had his work and it kept him busy day and night, but I had nothing to do with my days. Every one of my old friends had deserted me and I couldn't make new friends when they found out who I was. Oh! I tried hard to make people like me for myself alone. I took up art at a fashionable art school in Los Angeles. I dabbled in ceramics, fashion designing and attended writing classes, but I guess I had developed an anxiety nuerosis. I was nervous and afraid all the time. My ears had become oversensitive, listening for whispers, titters and subtle innuendoes. Finally, I had to just give up and stay home practicing on the piano, embroidering and reading books. We moved frequently, for when our neighbors found out who we were, they often became disagreeable. I was drinking more and more to ease that hurt inside me, and I was continually increasing the amount of sedatives I took as I grew more troubled. Finally, under the continued strain, my health broke and I could not sleep at all. I loss weight and became deeply depressed. Eugene was more tender and understanding than ever. He sent me to a sanitarium in Wisconsin where a new treatment for insomnia had been developed. I was there for months and improved considerably. But I wasn't home long before I was worse again. I was developing strange fears and anxiety tortured me day and night. I began to be terribly afraid of people, afraid to have them look at me________.
NOTE: Things had gotten to the point that Helen became delusional about people staring at her and making comments behind her back. Eugene sent her to another hospital in New York where she was befriended by a contingent of African Americans who brought her flowers, and came to see her regularly. All the while, the hateful letters started to flood the hospital. Growing more despondent, and missing Eugene, she checked herself out of the hospital armed with barbituates and other drugs, and went back home to California.
Eugene did everything in the world for me, and he was always kind and considerate even when I was hysterical and depressed. But I could see the strain was telling on ___. We began to quarrel, not because we had any real basis in quarreling, but only because our nerves were at the breaking point. Even the great love we had for each other couldn't save us. Perhaps the knowledge that the world looked upon that love as something vile and shameful was ____ for either of us to bear. We were living in a large colonial mansion on a fashionable ___of Wiltshire Boulevard then. On one side of the drawing room was Gene's immense painting of St. George and the Dragon. I had grown to hate that picture, and dreaded being alone in the house with it. The dragon had come to represent life to me - and I was desperately afraid of it. I grew steadily weaker, and more nervous and depressed. My physical condition distorted my thinking and I began to blame Gene for everything. I had moments when I actually hated him, but through it all, he was kind and considerate. Only his eyes and the lines on his face showed how he was suffering. Then one night, half drunken and dazed with sleeping capsules, I decided to murder him and then kill myself. Death was the only way out that I could see for us. All night long I had lain sleepless and tossing on my bed, although I had taken a number of capsules. Half frenzied, I got up finally and found the gun I always kept hidden. Clutching it, I slipped into his bedroom. In the dim grey light of dawn, I pointed the gun at his temple and tried to pull the trigger. Perhaps just the slightest pressure would have done it, but the gun didn't go off, and then I remembered how kind and __ he had always been to me, and I realized I couldn't go through with it. I hid the gun again, and then came back and sank down beside his bed sobbing. He opened his eyes and saw me there. For hours, he held me in his arms while I cried my heart out. And he cried with me - we were like two lost souls caught in a hideous whirlpool which daily and irrevocably was destroying us. In a broken voice, he kept repeating over and over again "Oh, my baby.....my precious baby, if they would only give us a chance. Go back Helen - go back to your world. Go now before it's too late. I'll do anything in God's world to help you". "Darling, my darling" I whispered as I clung to him. "I love you more than life, but I can't go on like this. It's killing me by ___". And so we tried to make the break - to part from each other. I moved to a hotel and the papers announced that I was divorcing Eugene. But I reckon without my heart - to be away from him was more than I could bear. I drank heavily and doped myself with sleeping capsules, but I had to drop the divorce proceedings and go back. He seemed like a part of my soul and I felt like I couldn't live without him.
We tried to make a go of it again in a big rambling house at Las Tunas Beach overlooking the Pacific. It was a lovely place near Malibu, with a huge fireplace and picture windows looking out over the sea. The sound of the waves soothed me, and for a time we were happy, but it didn't last. The forces at work destroying us were too strong. Again we were seperated. Eugene turned the beach house over to me. Sally stayed with me to run the house, and I had my ___ car and chauffer. After he had gone, I almost went mad with loneliness and yearning for him, but this time I decided I would stick it out if it killed me. My lawyer started proceedings to have our marriage annulled. I was under a terrific emotional strain at this time and liquor and sleeping pills no longer had much effect on me. In desperation, I turned to narcotics. Oh! I know that people have said that Gene started me using dope, that he supplied me with it, but there is not a word of truth in that story. He never gave me drugs and tried to stop me from using them when he found out about it. A physician in Santa Monica supplied me with the drugs I wanted but his fees were high. Gene was giving me a generous monthly allowance, but I soon found that most of the money was going for dope. I knew I was playing with fire but I didn't care, for narcotics were giving me a great deal of false courage and confidence in myself. I began to feel as if all were not lost and I dreamed again of making a place in the world for myself. After several months, I gave up the beach house, and moved in an apartment in Hollywood. By then I was a slave to drugs. To get more of the stuff - I began paying for it with my possessions, first my mink coat and then my other lovely furs. Then one piece of my jewelry at a time (much of it from Cartier's), and finally my Knabe grand piano, Oriental rugs and even my Frigidaire and peices of furniture.
Only with the illusion of hope and courage that the hyperdermic needle gave me could I bear to face the world. My clothes began to get run down and hung on me because of the weight I lost. I guess I realized too that much of my beauty had faded and hard lines had been etched in my face. But I hadn't realized how much I had changed until one day in Los Angeles, I met Imogene Wilson, an old friend from the Ziegfeld days. "Hello, Imogene" I said nervously holding out my hand to her. "It's wonderful to see you again". But she looked at me with no sign of recognition in her eyes. I simply couldn't believe Imogene would snub me too. Then I heard her saying " I'm awfully sorry, but I don't believe I know you". "I'm Helen Lee Worthing, Imogene" I answered. "But I guess I've changed alot........" She threw her arms around me and soon we were talking about old times. Oh! it was good to have a friend again. She drove me home in her limousine and told me about her battle with narcotics. She promised to help me. But after she left me at my apartment, I became more and more depressed. As I studied myself in the mirror, I felt that I was really finished. No wonder Imogene didn't recognize me, my face looked really haggard and thin and tragedy was in my sunken eyes. I felt I just couldn't bear to face the dreary, empty years ahead. With a razor blade, I slashed both my wrists. But the cuts weren't deep enough, and I was saved - saved to go to the very depths of this world's hell. For I was on the devil's slide then and nothing could stop me. My mind began to play tricks on me. I began imagining I could hear voices talking about me - other times I my mind was so hazy that I couldn't think or I would have spells of hysteria. Even morphine didn't help me. Finally, I was committed to the psychopathic ward of Los Angeles General Hospital. Headlines told the world that I was a dope addict. But I didn't know and wouldn't have cared if I had known for I was in the depths of hell then. I was suffering tortures that I shudder to recall. Monstrous hallucinations tortured me to the point where I couldn't tell the real from illusory. I heard voices mocking and jeering at me: I saw demons and horrible mishapen creatures leering at me. I screamed and fought and tried to kill myself. Finally, I found myself in a strait-jacket, tied to an iron cot in a grim cement room barren of furniture. From the psychopathic ward I was sent to a sanitarium - rest home they call them. As I look back the whole thing seems like a hideous nightmare - the hallucinations persisted and the craving for drugs was sheer torture. For hours at a time, I would be wrapped tight in wet sheets and immersed in tubs of water to quiet me.
Gradually, as I was cured of the narcotic addiction, my mind found its way back to sanity. Gene didn't attempt to see me, but I knew he would come in an instant if I sent for him. He paid all my bills and sent me lovely flowers and gifts. Months later, I was released as cured - both from drugs and a drug psychosis. I had gained back the weight I lost and looked better than I had in years, but my heart had becard hard, bitter and calloused. I was vindictive - I wanted to get back at the world that had hurt me. And so I painted my face, bought fashionable new clothes, and began frequenting the bars in the smart hotels. Sure, I played men - played them for every cent I could get out of them. And when they got serious, I laughed in their faces and mocked them. I only wanted to hurt them -I wanted to hurt anybody and everybody that I could. To see others suffer a little as I had suffered gave me a sort of fiendish pleasure. Before long, I was back on morphine again!
Yes! I hated the world then - and most of all I hated the white race - and their cruel, vicious intolerance that refused to let me live in quiet peace and happiness with the man I loved. Yes! I even hated and cursed God - if indeed there was a God, and I didn't believe there was. Sometimes, in a drunken stupor I'd raise my fist and shake it at the heavens- at that God love and tolerance and understanding and all His precious saints that the white preachers prattled about so piously in church - those same Christians that sent the cruel dirty anonymous letters. As I cursed and defied God and man, life beat me ever more cruelly with lashes of fire and I sank to even lower depths. I became a familiar figure on Los Angeles's notorious Skid Row. I began to roam the cheap bars and dance halls. My name was always in the newspapers, not headlines any longer, but sordid little articles: "Helen Lee Worthin Found Bruised And Bleeding in Main Street Hotel With Man" "Ex-Follies Beauty Arrested in Santa Monica on Drunk Charge" "Helen Worthing Picked Up On Morals Charge". And then headlines again when I was thrown in jail for forging narcotic prescriptions. I was sentenced to one year in jail. And again I went through all the tortures of the drug cure. At last when I was released, I resolved to make a new start and for a time I really tried hard. I took a job first as a seamstress and then in a defense plant as matron in the women's rest-room. But it was too late! Perhaps I had already been through too much because I just couldn't face the world any longer. Frustration, hatred and bitterness were like a cancer eating at the core of my being. I found forgetfulness once more in liquor and drugs. From then on I became a familiar figure in police courts, emergency hospitals, charity offices and on the streets of the worst sections in Los Angeles. I was like a dead woman - a woman without a soul - making the motions of living, but really dead - dead beyond caring, feeling or even thinking. Time and again, I attempted suicide with sleeping capsules, chloroform, and deadly drugs and gas. But always I was saved. Saved for further suffering - saved to sink lower into the foul depths of depravity. And then one night when it seemed I had reached the utter bottom of human misery and degradation - when I had suffered until I was beyond suffering, and hated until my heart had become gall - that night some last vestige of soul within me cried out in sheer agony "Oh God, why......."
The pain, anguish and heartbreak behind that cry must have reached out into the uttermost depths of time, space and eternity - the last, hopeless,despairing cry of a lost soul calling to the God she had cursed, for an answer. Then some mystical thing happened to me. A feeling of peace came over me and I seemed to drift into a wonderful state of concsciousness where there was no more pain or hatred. And the senseless jumble of my life resolved itself into a pattern. I seemed to be seeing life impersonally, objectively as a school - a great school for eternity where each of us has lessons to learn. Clearly I could see all the mistakes I had made. My marriage to Eugene appeard as a great test - a test I had failed! My failure was in fighting to make the white race accept us, and hating and cursing them when they refused. With the understanding of that moment, I saw that I should have turned to the colored race of my husband which had always held out a warm, friendly hand to me after my marriage to Gene. If only I had been big enough to have accepted that hand of friendship in the spirit it was offered, then Gene and I could have made a success of our marriage and proved an inspiring example to the world that love knows no petty boundaries of race or color. Suddenly then, I was sorry - sorry for everybody in this world. All hatred went out of my heart - and bitterness and resentment. Softly, I began to cry -only this time my tears were not tears of self-pity, but tears for all the pain and agony of the world - an immature world that still judges a man by his color or his race or his creed and not for his own fine qualities. Today I am tired with a weariness that is beyond description, and I haven't the courage or the strength to go on. But I am grateful that at last I have found faith- faith in God and man for I know that the day is not far off when all men will be brothers regardless of the color of their skin. In that day, society will cheerfully grant to each man his birthright of freedom - the right to marry and live in peace and social acceptance with the person he loves.
Apparently, Dr. Eugene Nelson told his side of the story to Tan Magazine in 1953. I have yet to locate the whole article. However, this small and sordid obituary appeared in a Los Angeles newspaper in 1948 when Helen passed away: "Died. Helen Lee Worthing, fiftyish, faded onetime Ziegfeld Follies dancer who was once pressagented as "the most beaufiful girl in the world", of seconal poisoning, in Los Angeles. After a few parts in silent movies, she married a negro physician, Dr. Eugene Nelson, was dropped by the studios, eventually moved on to drink, dope and sanitariums."